Our last Do You Use It? poll asked how frequently you use widgets. There are so many implementations of widgets in the Apple world that we had to break the question into nine separate questions to cover the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch and discern the difference between widgets in different parts of each device’s interface. Just because you use Home Screen widgets on the iPhone doesn’t mean you use Notification Center widgets on the Mac.
Along with a three-tier answer for how much people use widgets (Heavily, Slightly, Don’t Use), we took two other possibilities into account. Some people can’t use certain types of widgets at all due to system requirements—iPad Lock Screen and Apple Watch Smart Stack widgets appeared only with iPadOS 17 and watchOS 10, for instance, and thus aren’t available to those using earlier versions (that’s the Not Available answer). Plus, just because a feature exists doesn’t mean everyone knows about it—part of the goal of these surveys is to introduce people to features they may not have heard of before (the Didn’t Know answer).
Before we dive into the results, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what widgets are. An iPhone support page notes that widgets provide “timely information from your favorite apps at a glance on your Home Screen, Lock Screen, or Today View.” In essence, apps can use widgets to display information without you having to switch to the app. You might want to have weather conditions, sports scores, flight tracking, your to-do list, or a weekly budget available at a glance.
Widgets first appeared in Today View to the left of the Home Screen (iOS 12 and iPadOS 13) but became more interesting once Apple allowed them to appear in more prominent locations. They first migrated to the Home Screen (iOS 14 and iPadOS 15) and the Mac Notification Center (macOS 12 Monterey), followed by the Lock Screen (iOS 16 and iPadOS 17). This year, widgets made their way onto the Mac desktop (macOS 14 Sonoma) and the Apple Watch Smart Stack (watchOS 10). Each link above points to Apple’s widget documentation for the associated operating system.
As it turns out, however, at-a-glance information might not be as valuable as Apple seems to imply, to judge from the responses from roughly 350 people to our poll questions.
Widget Usage Results by Platform
Let’s start with the iPhone. The most common response for whether respondents use Home Screen, Lock Screen, or Today View widgets was Don’t Use, followed by Slightly. Only 14% of respondents use Home Screen and Lock Screen widgets heavily. Interestingly, Today View widgets are both the oldest and the least popular—17% of respondents have either never heard of them or, more likely, forgotten about them. Vanishingly few people have iPhones that are too old to use widgets.
On the iPad, the widget story is even less favorable. Home Screen widgets ranked first, with 10% of people using them Heavily and 39% using them Slightly. However, 46% of respondents don’t use Home Screen widgets at all, more than any of the iPhone Don’t Use numbers, and that’s the good news—58% and 60% of respondents don’t use Lock Screen or Today View widgets on the iPad. Despite the lower usage levels, respondents were slightly more aware of iPad widgets than iPhone widgets. More people had iPads that were too old to support various widgets, but those responses are still in the low single digits.
On the Mac, there are only two types of widgets: the Notification Center widgets that debuted in macOS 12 Monterey and the new Home Screen widgets in macOS 14 Sonoma. Nevertheless, the trends continue, with about half of users saying they never use widgets on the Mac, and only 27% (Home Screen) and 43% (Notification Center) responding either Heavily or Slightly. Interestingly, the Mac’s Notification Center widgets are more heavily used than the equivalent Today View widgets on the iPhone and iPad. Those unaware of widgets on the Mac were in the mid-single digits, and unsurprisingly, 16% of respondents aren’t running Sonoma and thus can’t use Home Screen widgets.
Since the Apple Watch’s Smart Stack widgets appeared only a few months ago in watchOS 10, they fare almost surprisingly well. Half of all users don’t use them, in line with the other platform widgets, but 26% of users have found and adopted them already. Many (17%) didn’t know about them (in watchOS 10, turn the Digital Crown to bring up the Smart Stack), and 7% have older Apple Watch models or haven’t upgraded yet.
Why Aren’t Widgets More Popular?
I’m no poster child for widget usage. The only widget I use is CARROT Weather’s forecast widget, and only on my iPhone. On the Home Screen, I have a prominent stack that alternates between CARROT Weather’s 12-hour forecast and 7-day forecast, and although I peruse those sometimes, I’m more likely to tap the widget to open the app for a full-screen view. On the Lock Screen, I have the 5-hour forecast widget, but I can’t really read it, so I use it only as a shortcut to open the CARROT Weather app. Two other small widgets on the Lock Screen fill the space, one showing precipitation likelihood and the other showing temperature, but the fact that I had to look closely at them to write this sentence suggests I never use them.
I seldom turn my iPad on at this point, so there’s no point in having widgets there. On my Macs, I’ve tried widgets in Sonoma, but my desktop is obscured by windows unless I reveal it to work with files, and then I’m focused on what I’m doing, not looking at widgets. On my Apple Watch, I prefer the Modular watch face with complications for the timer, my next calendar event, the temperature, and a few apps. I tried the amusing Snoopy watch face, and because it allows no complications, I configured Smart Stack widgets to simulate my complications. Snoopy was fun, and the Smart Stack worked, but I disliked having to invoke it rather than just glancing at my wrist, so I returned to Modular and stopped using the Smart Stack.
Why do widgets fail to inspire so many people? The monochrome iPhone and iPad Lock Screen widgets are too hard to read against photos—I could imagine those being more popular if they were more readable.
More generally, I’m not sure that the concept of widgets is as compelling as Apple seems to imply. There are a few bits of information many people want at a glance, but I’m willing to bet that the main one is time, followed by date. That’s why the Mac has long had a menubar clock, the iPhone has always shown the time on the Lock Screen and in the Home Screen status bar, and the Apple Watch exists at all. I look at all of those regularly to ground myself in the flow of time, and they solve the at-a-glance problem for most people. Heck, the Apple Watch is essentially a dedicated widget that “shows timely information from your favorite apps.”
The problem may be not with widgets but with the assumption that they should be attractive to most Apple users. A more charitable interpretation would be that a fair number of people—between 25% and 50% of users—have some specific desire for at-a-glance information beyond time and date. Those desires are probably not broadly shared. A sailor or kite flyer might care deeply about wind speed and direction; the rest of us, not so much.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t feel like you’re missing out or being a bad Apple user if widgets have little or no appeal. Simultaneously, it’s worth acknowledging that widgets are one of those features that might make a big difference to others. Apple can’t please all the people all the time, but widgets can please some of the people some of the time.